A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand - North - Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai - 2024

Fabulous northern food & colourful temples

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We catch a taxi to the airport and after a 2 hour Air Asia flight we arrive in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Another short tuk tuk ride and we arrive at the Mantra House Guesthouse. Of course we feel right back at home in Thailand as it is our 14th visit to this great country. We walk around quickly reacquainting ourselves with this beautiful, pleasant and very food-oriented city. We revisit the gorgeous Wats (Buddhist temples) to admire their unique and stylish architecture, go for a run along the ruins of the ancient city walls, visit the incredible markets and food markets and of course, sample the delicious cuisine and street food of Northern Thailand. From spicy pork sausages, to spring rolls, to rotisserie chicken, basil pork with rice, masasman curry, panang curry, jasmine rice, som tam (spicy green papaya salad), fried chicken, a wide variety of stir-fried rice and noodles, curries in many different colours (red, green, yellow...), spring rolls, and of course, Phad Thai, the Thai national dish (stir fried noodles with tofu, pork, chicken or prawns). Yes, you could think we are already obsessing about Thai food and you would be so right. Also, it’s been very hot, so we have to get up very early to go for a run and a long walk and retreat to our room straight after lunch as it hits 35 degrees early in the afternoon, but who cares when you get to enjoy this lovely city in the mornings and evenings? The traffic here is very gentle for a city in South East Asia, drivers and motorbikes slow down or even stop for pedestrians. People in general are very gentle and greet you with a big smile and a Sawasdee Ka (Kap for men) when walking on the street. We also have an amazing Thai massage, we try to have one once a week when we are here. Its the best massage technique ever in our humble opinion. They use their hands, knees, elbows and feet to hit you in places you didn’t even remember existed, they push, pull, stretch and punch you and sometimes, literally walk all over you... then you pay them, tip them and say Kap Kunh Kra (Krap for men, thank you), yes, it is that good. A few hours later you will feel sore but your Chi should definitely be realigned, whatever that means... This time we went to Rak Thai Massage and paid 250 bath plus 50 tip each (7.50 euros total) for one hour, highly recommended. We also have to highlight the food of Pakorn’s Kitchen, highly recommended authentic Thai food that won’t blow your budget. The little gentle lady who is the housekeeper at the guest-house takes a shine to us, she’s always smiling and saying Ka, she’s so lovely we give her a fridge magnet from Portugal and of course a nice tip when we leave. Anyway, time to say ciao to lovely Chiang Mai after 4 awesome days, see you again soon.

We wake up early as our taxi is booked for 6am to catch our 7am bus and just over 3 hours later we arrive in Chiang Rai. It’s our first time here and we’ve heard and read so many nice things about this place, time to check it out. We check in at the Baan Siri Guest House, nice, very clean, quiet and very well located. We then go out for a delicious lunch at the Pad Thai Clock Tower, highly recommended. We gave ourselves 2 days here so today we can chill and get to know the city on the first day and go for some serious sightseeing on the second day. We jump on the first local bus and head for the very famous and excessively Instagrammed White Temple. We get there early but its already busy and not with worshippers. Anyway, it’s big, it’s white and it’s blingy. It’s very picturesque if a bit too new and shiny for us but people seem to love it and flashes and selfies are going off left, right and centre. From there we catch the nearest public bus back to town and take a walk to the almost equally famous Blue Temple. It feels a lot more real, not as dazzling but definitely not as touristy. Having said that, of course both temples are amazing and worth a visit, it’s all a matter of taste. Templed out and after another lovely lunch at the Pad Thai Clock Tower, we rest for a bit before we head to the Night Market. The food side of the Night Market is incredible and highly recommended, all sorts of Thai delicious food and lots of deep-fried glistening seafood, not to be missed either. On the way home we try a Thai table BBQ place which is again disappointing, not to worry as I’m sure it’s the only bad meal we’re going to have in this country. The next morning we want to see whatever we missed before we check out and we get to see one of the highlights of our trip here, the incredible Wat Ming Muah (Wat means Temple btw). It’s located just after the Clock Tower and is definitely a sight to behold. We have an early lunch of yet another addictive Basil Pork on Jasmine Rice, pick up our bags and walk to the bus station. We catch the bus back to Chiang Rai as we have a sleeper train ticket. Yes, we know how hard it is to get this tickets and we booked them over a month ago and got the last two tickets available. We allowed plenty of time to get to the train station but of course the bus breaks down along the way (back on the backpacker trail...). They stop every other bus and put one or two people in them as a replacement bus will take another hour to get here. Anyway, in the end they put us on a bus and we make it in time, catching a tuk tuk to the train station. The train is very nice and new, there’s a restaurant car and there are only 4 people per compartment. They make your bed up at 8pm and wake you up to unmake them at around 6am as the train arrives in Bangkok at 6.50am.

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Posted by Pauluiza 10:48 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Vietnam - Central Region - Hoi An, My Son and Da Nang

Hoi An, My Son Sanctuary, the Marble Mountains, Da Nang & crossing the Hai Van Pass. Happy to be back on the beach, but we are here to eat

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Once again we use Booking.com to organise a taxi pick up and it works very well, sometimes they work out cheaper and you can pay online by card. We wake up at 1.30am as our taxi is booked for 3am, our Viet Jet flight to Da Nang leaves 5.30am and arrives at 6.40. Another taxi ride and at 8am we arrive at the Hoi An Blue River Hotel (11 euros including breakfast and it has a pool, only in Vietnam...). Our room is not ready, so we go for a wander around and quickly get ourselves reacquainted with this atmospheric city, we were here in 2011 and loved it. Hoi An Ancient Town is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its architecture reflects a wide range of influences, mostly Chinese and Japanese and later European, that have combined to produce this unique world heritage city. We stop for lunch and try some of the local must eats in the region with a few cold beers and fold for the day. On the second day we walk around admiring the pink and yellow houses, temples, pagodas and markets, all lit up with the traditional Hoi An lanterns which are the trademark of this town. We then go for lunch at the absolutely “we couldn't recommend it more if we tried” Bale Well Restaurant. There’s no menu as they only serve a delicious set menu of rice paper rolls to be filled with prawns spring rolls, BBQ pork skewers and Banh Xeo (a vietnamese pancake) served with fresh leaves, herbs and dipping sauces. The waiter will show you how to roll the first one and in which order, no rocket science, really but delicious, check out our photos. We walk around this beautiful city, visit the local markets, the extremely busy but still incredible Night Market, and then do a 15km hike to An Bang Beach. Then we take a walk along the river marvelling at the amazing architecture of the old town under the romantic glow of the colourful traditional lanterns which also glow on the river boats making the evenings here a little extra special.

One afternoon we arrive back at the hotel and there’s blaring Karaoke music from different places outside, it’s truly maddening. After a quick google search we realise its the beginning of Tet, which is the most important celebration in Vietnam, lasting for 7 days and leading up to the Lunar New Year, so, it’s officially party time. I have to say there are so many things I love about this country but karaoke music is definitely NOT one of them.

So next day we hire a scooter to explore both My Son (its pronounced Me Soon) Sanctuary and the Marble Mountains. Mỹ Sơn is a cluster of abandoned and partially ruined Shaiva Hindu Temples in Central Vietnam, constructed between the 4th and the 14th century. The temples were dedicated to the veneration of Shiva and it’s a very unique Hindu complex in a very Buddhist region of South East Asia, a fascinating archaeological site. Our second stop is the gorgeous Marble Mountains complex (we were here in 2011 way before they built the elevator, yes, you used to have to climb up all the steps....). The Marble Mountains, AKA the Five Elements Mountains (the 5th element is wood in case you were wondering) is a cluster of five marble and limestone hills. All of the mountains have cave entrances and numerous tunnels, and it is possible to climb to the summit of Mount Thủy. Several Buddhist sanctuaries can also be found within the mountains, making this a great destination for both tourists and locals. After another fabulous lunch, we make our way back to the hotel, return the scooter and go for a bit of well deserved R&R. After seven fabulous days and a last memorable evening meal at the Vietnamese Chopsticks Restaurant, try the fried chicken please, its time to say “tạm biệt Hoi An”.

After another smooth taxi ride we arrive at the Golden Rose Hotel (11 euros for an excellent deluxe room, great location near the fabulous My Khe beach) in Da Nang and, of course, instead of paying for an early check-in, we choose to have a few beers on this beautiful beach to celebrate. As I said, it’s a stunning beach destination but we’re seriously more interested in food and chilling as this city is meant to be extremely relaxing as far as Vietnamese cities go. In the morning we find the best Banh Mi of this entire trip and it’s very close to the hotel, it’s also where the owners bake the baguettes, so we have fresh, out of the oven Banh Mi every morning and Paul loves watching the baguettes being made. We decide to try a Korean BBQ restaurant for lunch again just to confirm we really don’t like it. It’s our 4th try, so we consider we gave it a fair go. We paid much more than usual for lunch and I end up with food poisoning from a non Vietnamese restaurant, first time ever in this country, never again, back to tried, trusted and loved Vietnamese food.

We hire a scooter, 6 euros, as Paul want to cross the Hai Van Pass. The Pass is one of the most important ones in Vietnam and a must do for motorbike enthusiasts and over enthusiastic cyclists. We ride across on the scooter and cross the pass with the incredibly beautiful coastal scenery for company. When it gets too misty and visibility is compromised at the highest point, all the scooters stick together behind a big truck, it’s kind of an interesting ballet. Along the way we see beautiful lakes, rivers, Chinese fishnets, and lovely, empty beaches, coves and bays. On the way back we cross the Pass again and it’s still as misty as before, just amazing views. We then make our way to see the massive Lady Buddha statue back in Da Nang before a quick stop for some pho (traditional beef or chicken soup) for lunch. We walk across the Dragon Bridge, visit the Han market and try to find a very famous dim sum restaurant just to find out it’s closed as are so many Viet/Chinese businesses on the lead up to the New Year.

Da Nang is kind of another side of Vietnam, its clean, it has wide avenues, a skyline, lots of famous hotels and the traffic works, there are roundabouts, traffic lights and people stop or slow down for you to cross the road, the chicken has a shot here. Housing seems to be pretty good even when you’re out of the touristy side and the standard of living seems, in general, pretty high. The majority of tourists come from Korea or Japan and the enormous seafood and BBQ restaurants seem to cater to them. The beach is long, the sand white and the water is blue and clear. We learn very quickly that to eat decent local food you need to get out of the touristy beach areas (My An or the other side of the river, behind the Han Market) and were rewarded with brilliant local food as soon as we started doing it. Lunch today was Banh Cuon, rice paper pancakes filled with pork, garlic and mushroom) just delicious. We also visited the Fresco Village, a small hutong style village, with a very impressive urban art open air gallery. Another day, another perfect lunch, we make our way to Thia Go restaurant, Paul has the Ban Bo Hue (traditional beef noodle soup from Hue) and I have a delicious bowl of Ban Thit Xao/Bun bo nam bo (prawn noodle salad). We also share a portion of fresh prawn spring rolls Goi Cuon, everything is absolutely perfect, will definitely go back and highly recommend. Our time in Da Nang and Vietnam is coming to an end after 21 fabulous days filled with fantastic food, so on our last day we end our time here the same way we started it, having a cold beer on the beach, check out our photos and till next time.

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Posted by Pauluiza 09:21 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam - North - Ha Noi and Ninh Binh

Hanoi & Ninh Binh, Northern Vietnam -2 Banh Mi Trung, please?

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Once again we use Booking.com to organise a taxi pick up and it works very well. On arrival in Hanoi we get a SIM card so we have mobile internet wherever we go, believe us, you will need it to find your way around this city. The pre-paid (10 euro) taxi is already waiting for us outside the airport and after another smooth ride we arrive at the Rising Dragon Estate Hotel in Hoan Kiem. We booked it for sentimental reasons as we stayed here 13 years ago, or at least we thought we did, funnily enough it’s not the same hotel anymore. Never mind, it’s alright and the room feels huge compared to the HK one. We weren’t prepared for how cold it is, freezing for SE Asia but luckily we have some warm clothes. So after piling on the layers, we dump our bags and go out for a cold Hanoi beer and a Banh Mi, a very Vietnamese/French warm baguette filled with ham, pate, pork, salad, eggs, etc, take your pick. While we were waiting, the woman making freshly made deep fried spring rolls offers me a free one, hot and delicious, then the waitress preparing our Banh Mi gives us a couple of fresh bananas, what a lovely, gentle welcome to dizzying Hanoi. On the way back to the hotel we grab a few beers and of course, have another Banh Mi and just because it’s calling our name, we also have an aniseed flavoured delicious pork sausage (lap xeong) before we retire for the night.

In the morning we go for a long walk through amazing streets to find a supermarket that's supposed to have wine as we haven’t had any since Uzbekistan and are suffering from mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. The walk is a perfect way to get out of backpacker central and see a bit more of the real Hanoi. We grab a couple of Bao Bun (white sweet pastry filled with BBQ pulled pork) to build up our energy levels till we get to the supermarket. On our way to the supermarket we buy a couple of new warm North Face Jackets (it’s freezing here, max 9 degrees some days), for some reason there are North Face knock offs and seconds everywhere in Vietnam, you won’t leave this country without buying a new jacket or at least a backpack, we challenge you. We finally make it to the supermarket and get some Vietnamese wine, cheese, pate and a baguette for old times sake and head back home for a bit of R & R. Next morning we just walk around the Old City till its time to change hotels as we found another one that’s new, better, cheaper and away from backpacker central. An Nam Corner (12.50 euros) is brand new, nice and the rooms and bigger and brighter, we put down our backpacks and make our way to A New Day Restaurant which used to be an old favourite of ours. The meal is not as good or authentic as we remembered it but it’s OK, again for old times sake, then after over 30,000 steps, it’s time to retire for the day.

We wake up early as today we have a day tour to a place called Ninh Binh which has been hailed as the new Ha Long Bay. First stop is the Hoa Lu Temple, dedicated to one of the Vietnamese kings. We also learn from our tour guide the difference between a Temple and Pagoda, a temple is a place where you worship kings and other important people while pagodas are places where you worship the Buddha. Then we proceed to Mua Cave where we take a beautiful but very steep hike, up 480 breathtaking steps to the see the Lying Dragon. We then stop for a lovely all you can eat buffet lunch followed by a 1.5 hour boat ride in Tam Coc, where we go through 3 different amazing caves. It’s fascinating to notice that the boat drivers use their feet to row instead of their hands, I supposed there´s a lot of technique gained over the years involved but won’t pretend I understand why they do it that way. The scenery is fabulous along the river and surrounded by mountains. The tour costs about 35 euros each, lunch included and it’s totally worth it. To top it off, we were a very small group: the two of us, a Spanish mother and daughter, a French girl and an Australian/Indian family of four, all very nice and cool and our guide, Duc was also very cool and informative, always looking after us and the driver was really calm, don’t know how they do it in this city. Before we get home we have a couple of 50 cent beers at our local and head home tired but happy.

The traffic in this city is definitely not for amateurs and yes, there's always another motorbike just behind you, ahead of you, at your side and even on any space of footpath that’s left after all the business and parked motorbikes occupy them… Leaves you wondering how the hell the chicken ever crossed the road at all… But besides that, Hanoi is an enchanting and charming mistress, you’re going to fall in love with this place even before you finish saying “2 Bahn Mi Trung, please?” Also it’s one of the most affordable capital cities in the world where you can stay & play for longer on a very comfortable budget. Hanoi has also been named the best food destination in the world by Trip Advisor for 2024, I realised that when we were here the first time in 2011, Vietnamese has been my favourite food ever since. We walk around and have the most incredible meals in the tiniest places and just soak up the vibe in this incredible city. We try everything and walk like crazy looking for all specialities and the right spots to try them. We have Bahn Mi trung (baguette with omelette) for breakfast, we try crab rolls (fried spring rolls filled with crab meat) in 2 Michellin Guide eateries,... Com Tam, Bun Cha, Banh Cuon, Bahn Cahn … Anyway, you get the gist of it, the food is just incredible, believe me and don’t be afraid to try everything, even the simpler places are super clean and hygienic.

We are very happy we changed hotels as we end up staying in a very local Vietnamese neighbourhood. People are very friendly and not touristed out yet, we also have the impression that we are finally paying local prices and getting more smiles along the way. We go for long walks to the Old Quarter (backpacker central), the French Quarter (a very pleasant area with lots of old, traditional French mansions and fancy hotels), the famous Hoan Kiem Lake, the upmarket Hanoi Lake suburb, you name it, we walk it. As we’ve been here before, we just spend most of the days walking around and eating our way through this great capital city. Our 8 days in Hanoi seem to be flying by, so much to eat, so little time. It’s our last day and we make our way to a Michellin Guide restaurant that only serves the most absolutely perfect spring rolls, so we go for both pork & crab and they were delicious, followed by a great seafood noodle soup at yet another place. Now it’s time to say au revoir Hanoi, thank you for the fabulous, if a bit cold time and hope to be back soon.

Hua Lo Lying Dragon Mountain Tam Coc Boat ride Tour (15)

Hua Lo Lying Dragon Mountain Tam Coc Boat ride Tour (15)

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Posted by Pauluiza 09:26 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hong Kong and Macau - 2024

A very organised foodie paradise

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We use Booking.com to organize our Kochi aiport taxi pick up and it works very well. The prepaid (15 euro) taxi arrived 10 minutes early to pick us up from the guesthouse, it’s a very nice and comfortable car and the driver is great navigating the seriously crazy Kochi traffic with gentle atmospheric music soothing the sometimes stressful ride. After an hour and 40 minutes, we arrive at Kochi International Airport. Our Air Asia flight leaves at 23.30 and arrives at Kuala Lumpur at 3.30am, 6am KL time, who needs to sleep? We've been to KL many times before and we know it’s a friendly and very cosmopolitan capital city, but this time it’s just a 7 hour layover. We take our connecting flight and after another smooth Air Asia finally get to Hong Kong. We arrive in HK literally 24 hours after we left India, catch the A22 bus (cheaper if you buy return to the airport) and get off one street away from our smallest hotel room ever, even smaller than the one in Beijing, which we thought was impossible. However I have to say it is extremely well located (one street behind Temple Street Market) and very clean and organised. We go out for beautiful food then sleep like babies, and no, not getting up to cry every few hours… We get up on day two and decide to visit Macau, heavens know why, OK, it was me. We were supposed to take the ferry but we missed the last one for the day. We decide to take the border crossing bus, we clear immigration on both sides and the bus leaves us at the Venetian, a very tacky monstrous casino just like so many others we see in our very short time in this City. We are not interested in casinos, just want to see the St Paul Church and Portuguese Heritage Square. By the time we find the place to take the bus back, it’s too late to see the things we’re interested in. So we head back to Hong Kong, very annoyed and frustrated having spent around 75 euros for bloody nothing besides ugly casinos and very weirdly-dressed people taking endless selfies. On the way back we find a place and have fantastic noodle soup, one with fish balls and the other with prawn wontons and it’s all beautiful in the world again.

Next morning we walk to the Harbour and take the ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, then a bus up to Victoria Peak to catch the most beautiful views of the Hong Kong skyline. It’s breathtaking, second to none, even Manhattan. Hong Kong is a massive city of 7.5 million people but today, twice we have experienced the kindness of strangers. First a man noticing we were lost, asked if we needed help with directions and helped us to find the right bus. Second, if you catch a bus, you can pay with a card but just once and you can only use cash if you have the correct change. After a bit of a discussion with the driver, a lady comes us and pays for our second ticket, how nice was that? We catch the bus back then take the metro back to Jordan (our suburb) on our quest for the Dim Dim Sum Restaurant and have one of the best Dim Sum experiences ever. Check out our photos. It’s interesting to notice that in such a big and overpopulated city, the traffic is very smooth and the public transport system is very organised and efficient. It’s also a very clean place considering the scale of absolutely everything happening all the time in this megacity.

Day 3 in HK and Papa is navigating the public transport system like an absolute pro, so we decide to do our own thing. We catch the metro out to see the 10,000 Buddha Monastery, it’s a long trip and then a 400 step walk up to the monastery but it’s totally worth it as the way up is lined on both sides with golden life-sized statues with different incarnations of the Buddha. It’s a fabulous day trip and even nicer if you want to get away from the buzzing city for a while. From there, after another metro ride, we arrive at the fantastic Sik Sik Yuen Wong Taí Sin Temple, also absolutely worth the visit. It’s very busy with Buddhist worshipping on steroids, check out our photos. From there, we want to check out what the fuss is all about regarding the HK public housing estates which are becoming a thing on Instagram so we make our way to one of them and it’s kind of just big building complexes for low income people, an absolutely great idea for low income housing in an over populated city but not as a tourist destination IMHO. From there we make our way to yet another fantastic DIM DIM SUM session. In the evening we go for a walk in our hood (Temple St) have some thick noddles and a couple of skewers of fish & meat balls and happily fold for the day. We need to say that if you like Asian food as much as we do, HK is the place for you, it’s expensive for accommodation as you would imagine being the 5th most expensive city in the world, but it’s worth every penny if you're into your food, a true food paradise, and as I’ve said many times before, we travel for food.

Our last day day in this city and we go for a long walk along the harbour and notice all the international athletes training for the HK Marathon, which happens to be tomorrow. Of course we couldn’t leave this place without saying ciao to some more Dim Sum, so we grab some take out and have it standing on the corner as the locals do. We then catch another A22 bus back to the airport to catch our HK Airlines flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. Even though we are not big city folk anymore, we couldn’t recommend more highly a visit to HK, what an incredible city with so much to offer, till the next chapter.

Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple (7)

Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple (7)

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Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (2)

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (7)

Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (7)

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Posted by Pauluiza 09:37 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

India - South Goa and Kerala - 2023/2024

Palolem, Galgibag, Polem, Rajbag, Patnem & Agonda, South Goa and Kochi, Kerala. JAI HIND!!!

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Palolem, Galgibag, Polem, Rajbag, Patnem & Agonda, South Goa and Kochi, Kerala India. JAI HIND!!!!

We take a taxi and 2 and a quarter hours and 35 euros later (yes, we do splurge sometimes) we arrive in Palolem, one of our favourite places ever. Its our 4th time here, 2003, 2013, 2018 and 2023, and it feels like nothing much has changed, perfect. We stay at the Palolem Cottages (very basic but perfect location) for a couple of nights until our our apartment is available. We booked the same apartment as 5 years ago and got a great price for the peak season (Xmas and NY) as we got in touch directly with the owner and paid a deposit way in advance. We move into our small apartment, a kitchenette with all the home comforts. It’s a little further from the town, about 2ks, and thankfully away from the noise but no worries as we got a scooter for the 3 weeks for 400 rupees /5 euros a day, it’s around 8 euros if you hire it just for the day in the high season. We get right back into Palolem living, it’s a place where people just relax and talk to each other. We go for a 5 km run early in the mornings, take long walks on the beach, work hard on our tan and, of course, deeply explore the restaurant scene. And an honourable mention for the booze prices (only in Goa can you get a 750ml bottle of Old Monk rum for 220 rupees) We go back to Baba Little Italy and we really enjoy Shiv Sai Thali House, what a lovely little eatery with great food and service. We also go back to our favourite hole in the wall place for breakfast- masala dosai & coffee with condensed milk and it really brings back memories as it’s been our once a week breakfast date here for years. We go for an 11k hike to Rajbag, a little fishing village where you can catch a boat and get across to a lovely beach and a cooling dip in the river.

On Christmas day we go back to one of my favourite places in the world, Galgibag (Turtle Beach), the most beautiful beach in Goa and one of the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. It’s a protected marine park, a very long beach with calm, warm waters and a beautiful river at the end. It’s also home to one of my favourite restaurants, Surya Beach Cafe, where I have one of my favourite dishes, chilli chicken fry, every time we come to Goa, yes, it’s that good and it has been since 2009. And today I just found out Shiv Sai Thali House also does an amazing chilli chicken fry, how cool is that? Definitely on a quest for the best chilli chicken fry, such hard work and yes, Surya is still the winner. We also discover Udupi Coastal Palate, another cheap but delicious place. We ride our scooter to Patnem and then go for a very long walk from Patnem to Rajbag to Palolem and back, around 17kms, of course we need to burn the calories from the all that chilli chicken fry.

Our friends from Australia and North Goa come for a day on the 28th and we have a blast at our still favourite beach bar, The Nest. On the 31st we go for a ride to Agonda Beach and have some delicious momos for lunch and of course NYE is at The Nest. So we enjoy our time riding our scooter, zipping around from beach to beach and sampling the best food in the area. As we ride to Galgibag as often as we can now, thanks to the new national highway, one day Paul forgets to wear a helmet. The Police stop us and said the fine is 1000 rupees (just over 12 euros) and of course you have to pay in cash. Papa asks if we can pay with a card as we only have 500 rupees (6 euros), only Papa could get away bargaining a traffic police ticket, and so 500 it was, then we make our way to Galgibag with just enough cash for lunch. For some reason, this place has very few people for this time of the year. We walk around and its nothing compared to the other times we were here, no we are not complaining, quite the opposite. We talk to people who have businesses and they all agree. As I read a few weeks ago in an Indian newspaper article, Goa is getting too expensive compared to other places in Asia and South East Asia. And we’re confirming it as we plan and starting booking our onward trips. After 23 perfect years with Paul mastering the art of zipping us around on our scooter like an Goan pro, lovely sunshine, perfect beaches and delicious food, its time to, kicking and screaming, say ciao to South Goa, or maybe its arrivederci.

So, we walk to the train station at 11pm to catch our train at midnight. The train is late and of course there’s a guy sleeping on my berth, some things never change. They give us clean sheets and off we go on our 13 hour train ride to Kerala. Of course there are people watching videos very loud and I have to say many times “excuse me we’re trying to sleep here”. Obviously in the morning they win the battle and there’s a cacophony of Youtube and Tik Tok music videos and screaming babies, a seriously undesired soundtrack to our trip. Also after we close the upper berths and sit for the last few hours of the trip, there are 5 guys seating in the place of 3 and talking very loudly and guess what? Watching YouTube and Tik Tok videos very loudly, it definitely must be fun for some, not for us... Also of course the “chai, coffee, chai” chants begin at 4.30 am, people selling hot beverages on the train. We give up trying to sleep and arrive in Kochi, Kerala, totally knackered.

After an hour long chaotic tuk tuk ride we get to our guest house and of course it’s nothing like the photos, and the private kitchen is a communal kitchen… as we are tired and cranky we just give up and embrace all the beauty and fascination, complexities and contradictions, by having a memorable lunch at the Warehouse Cafe Restaurant, before we fold for the day. Day 2 in Kochi and we are woken up at 5.30am by the Call to Prayer from the local mosque, who needs to sleep anyway? Just went back to sleep then it’s off to our regular combination of sightseeing and exercising. We visit Jew Town and the synagogue, the Jain temple, the Hindu temple, palaces and churches, and the famous Chinese fishing nets, allegedly from 1350 and 1450 AD. We walk around the water front and Fort Kochi area, the Vasco da Gama Square and everything in between then go for another delicious lunch at the lovely Mary’s Kitchen.

Kerala, or at least the Fort Kochi area, is still amazingly beautiful, with its clean wide roads, its very unique and impressive architecture and of course, the most fabulous food with loads of coconut milk, black pepper and curry leaves, what’s not to love? Its our last day in Kerala and in India after 51 days between North and South Goa and Kerala. We move to a cheaper place to chill for a few hours before heading to the airport. Then we walk around soaking up the Fort Kochi vibes till we get hungry. On our way to the Warehouse Restaurant we see a blackboard with some combo specials for 250 rupees (curry and a rice dish) and decide to check out the place anyway and wow, what a pleasant surprise. The place is amazing, in a gorgeous setting in what is actually Club Cochin, which used to be a private club founded by the English. We´ve accidentally found one of the best restaurants in Kochi, the Fort Paragon Restaurant, and what a going away present it is!! Delicious food, great service and very affordable prices, no tourists in sight, just very middle class Indian regulars. We go for 2 of the specials, Kerala Chicken Curry and of course, Chilli Chicken and are rewarded with one of the best lunches we have ever had in this country, and that's a big claim considering that we once stayed in India for over 6 months. The bill came to just under 600 rupees wihch is almost what we spent on an average breakfast the day before, go figure!! Well, that's the end of our adventures in India, 51 days of fun, sunshine, fantastic food, gorgeous beaches, lovely walks, a very noisy long train ride and lots of smiles and fun times. We hope to see you again soon, till then Jai Hind!!!

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Posted by Pauluiza 09:03 Archived in India Comments (0)

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